August 13th, 2013
09:09 PM ET

Name 'Messiah' would offend, judge says

By Marlena Baldacci, CNN

(CNN) –Young Messiah, the "happiest baby in the world," according to his mother, is blissfully unaware that a judge ruled that his birth name promises to offend many in his Tennessee community.

His mother, Jaleesa Martin, and father, Jawaan McCullough, who are not married, couldn't agree on a last name for their baby, now 7 months old. That's why they ended up in the courtroom of Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew.

But the judge shifted the attention to the baby's first name, and said it should be changed.

"She just plainly came out and said, 'I'm going to change his first name,' because she didn't like it," Martin told CNN's Chris Cuomo on New Day on Wednesday.

In her ruling, Ballew wrote: "'Messiah' is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ" and that naming him this "places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill." Her ruling also noted the large Christian population in the Tennessee county where the child was born.

Speaking to CNN affiliate WBIR, Ballew, wearing earrings in the shape of a cross, said this was the first time she had ordered a name change.

Martin, whose family is Baptist, said there was no religious motivation behind her pick; rather she'd heard the name on one of her favorite TV shows and thought it'd be a good name for her son. She also wanted another "M" name to go with her other two sons, Mason and Micah.

CNN could not reach McCullough for comment.

The parents were given one hour to pick a new name, and Ballew told them that if they couldn't reach a decision then she would "give him the name that she wanted him to have," Martin said.

The judge's pick: Martin DeShawn McCullough.

Martin said that she'll keep calling her son Messiah and that she has heard from supporters all over the country. She's also upset about reports she is being attacked online as a bad mother.

The Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union is following the case, saying it supports Martin and calling the judge's ruling unacceptable.

"The bench is not a pulpit, and using it as one, as this judge did, violates the parents' rights and our sense that people of all faiths will be treated fairly in the courtroom," Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said.

According to U.S. Social Security Administration statistics, Messiah was the fourth-fastest growing name for boys in the United States from 2011 to 2012. It ranks at Number 387, between the decidedly traditional names Scott and Jay.

"I'm sorry that you have your own beliefs, but you have no right to change my child's name," Martin said of Ballew.

Ballew declined CNN's request for comment. Martin has appealed the court's decision; it will go before the Cocke County chancellor next month.

CNN's Matt Dellinger contributed to this story.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Jesus

soundoff (1,280 Responses)
  1. desireej

    What an egregious and just ignorant violation of judicial power! If this judge was elected she needs to not be re-elected and the Bar should evaluate her ability to apply the law impartially and without bias.
    (Probably should brush up on how words were corrupted and misinterpreted when translated from Aramaic and Hebrew as well.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • SmokinJoe1x

      With your opinion it sounds to me like I need to have more kids. I think I will name one Allah, one God, another Royalhighness, another King, if it's a girl maybe Queen and another President. And what the hell why not another named Lucifer.

      August 14, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • ME II

        Go ahead.

        What's your point?

        August 14, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The name Lucifer derives from the Latin term lucem ferre, which means bearer of light.
        Hebrew texts name the BabylonianKing Helal, son of Shahar, as Lucifer, best translated to english as "Day star, son of the Dawn."

        August 14, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • fireitup

        Hey, wasn't there a football player named "Lawyer"?

        August 14, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • chris

        Name them whatever you want. That's the point.

        August 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • c

      The judge claims to be a christian and doesn't seem to have read Genesis 11; which talks about Nimrod and the Tower of Babel. ... “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. Trough arrogance and pride folk built the Tower of Babel to honor themselves. God caused the Tower to crumble, scattering people and languages all over the world. The judge is probably not a s good of a christian as she might think;perhaps she's too pridefull. And Pride cometh before a Fall....

      August 14, 2013 at 10:11 am |
      • snowboarder

        that is a nifty fairy tale.

        August 14, 2013 at 10:44 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai that is 829.8 m (2,722 ft) – I'm pretty sure that the Tower of Babel wasn't that tall... and the Prince of Dubai built it because of pride in his country and because he just plain felt like it...

        August 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          The tallest building ever built... god must have adjusted his threshold for destroying big things

          August 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  2. Kebos

    I believe this baby is the second coming. He should be watched very carefully for signs.

    August 14, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Signs? You mean like levitating, miracles performed, walking on water? 🙂

      August 14, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  3. Everybody Poops

    Pollution doesn't wait. Why should you? Go poop.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:08 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I have a t-shirt that says 'I pooped today!'

      August 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  4. Frank

    This judge needs to be disbarred for violating the separation of church and state, and for being out of her mind if she thinks Jesus earned anything. Jesus was a cult leader who was executed from crimes against the state. No more.

    August 14, 2013 at 2:54 am |
    • I Have a Small Penis

      Don't get mad.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:19 am |
  5. Apple Bush

    Maybe when I am dead and gone I can pull out onto her matchbox or killing for door know sales at the carnival. It is not hard for me to understand. That is why I write it. If you were writing it, well let’s just no. Burnt churches are the beds that young men and women dressed or undressed like to pursue but you did not come here to ask me that did you? You asked me here because you are a frozen friend today. You have the worries. Do you think this will be the same as yesterday? Do you think the pepper will tilt north or the garlic smash tea into diamonds?

    August 14, 2013 at 2:49 am |
  6. Apple Bush

    I am only one cry in the long journey to the edge of the beginning of your journey. Many cries may visit and be your friends. Some have had a really hard time of it so just avoid the really bad ones.

    August 14, 2013 at 2:43 am |
  7. Mel

    I agreed with Judge. If Judge allows mother to keep baby's name, the hurtful truth would be the sooner or later that baby will be killed.

    August 14, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Mel, you are wrong.

      August 14, 2013 at 2:51 am |
      • Mel

        If I'm wrong, how can you explain that this "holy" name can be used to people from Israel and Arabic countries?

        It is something you may want to understand them... Their beliefs and culture...

        August 14, 2013 at 2:58 am |
        • Apple Bush

          Who cares? Just sounds.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:03 am |
        • Mel

          Ball is in your court.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:07 am |
        • HotAirAce

          Why is an explanation necessary? Do they even attempt to explain the things they do to those that might disagree?

          August 14, 2013 at 3:05 am |
        • Mel

          They already did. :-/

          August 14, 2013 at 3:06 am |
        • little mel

          Mel, you are clueless. Give it just a few minutes of thought.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:11 am |
        • Mel

          You can say anything about me you like but you know I'm not responsible for your safety if you use that name in front of them.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:13 am |
        • tiny mel

          I don't wish to say anything about you. thanks.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:24 am |
        • sam stone

          fine, mel.....you are not responsible for the safety of anyone named messiah. happy?

          you are also not responsible for anyone named amanda, chuck, harry, latisha, juan, rick, fred, tootie, kathryn, etc.

          this judge overstepped her bounds

          August 14, 2013 at 4:06 am |
        • Mel

          Happy? Have you thought about their love ones?

          If someone says I don't care and babbling and then this person is either had been beat up or dead, I will not say See! I'm right! I'm sad and feel sorry for those who grief over this person.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:11 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Mel: You're the one people should be feeling sorry for. Obviously you were not educated in what the Constitution states. Your opinion doesn't matter and the judge is dead wrong.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:23 am |
    • truthprevails1

      It doesn't matter if you agree. Have you forgotten a simple little thing called separation of church and state? The judge has no authority to bring her personal religious views in to a decision that affect anyone else.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:19 am |
      • Mel

        The hard truth is there is no separatation of church and state except MONEY. Even if religious view is separate from the state, religious people must obey the law.
        If Judge thinks it is not safe for this INNOCENT cute little boy, he can say NO.
        But mother can appeal. Appeal! Appeal!

        August 14, 2013 at 4:25 am |
        • truthprevails1

          She didn't say it wasn't safe. Reading comprehension fails you obviously! The judge stated very clearly that she didn't think he could live up to the name and she based it off of her religious beliefs that only one person earned that (jesus-who can't be confirmed to have existed and isn't someone everyone believes in). This judge doesn't give a rats ass about the child's safety, this judge cares about her precious imaginary friend being offended.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:44 am |
        • Mel

          Correct me if I'm wrong. You don't give a damn about this child's safety.

          I don't have any imaginary friend.

          If you are a fearless type of person, go and visit these Arabic countries and say "I strongly agree with someone named her child M***iah.

          If you are doing alright, please let me know.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:17 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Better still why don't you go to the parents of all the children named Messiah in the US and tell them they're wrong to do so.
          Hint: Wear bullet proof clothing.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:30 am |
        • truthprevails1

          I care about this child's safety in the here and now. He is safe with his parents. Stop projecting in to the future on a matter that no-one can possibly know. It doesn't matter if it offends people from other countries, the child doesn't reside in those other countries.
          You don't have an imaginary friend? If you believe in jesus or god, you most certainly do have an imaginary friend!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:31 am |
        • Mel

          I don't believe in God and I do care about this child. That does means I want PEACE. I love open discussion.

          If you don't feel right about someone's decision,it would be shame if you remain silent. Listen and Discuss/Share are good for the community.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:43 am |
        • truthprevails1

          You're opinion involves projecting in to the future and is not logical.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:49 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Then you're not arguing to support the decision made by this judge. At least not for the same reasons. The judge didn't care about the possibility of this child being abused. She didn't think this child could live up to the expectations of the title. Purely religious expectations. If you're advocating for children not having to be saddled with unfortunate names, by law, then you have a very large battle on your hands.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:50 am |
      • truthprevails1

        The hard truth is that the judge is obligated to obey that. It doesn't matter if she believes the name will have negative connotations nor is it what she was implying was her reasoning, it is not her decision to make. Pull your head out of your ass and think about how you would feel if you were told that you had to change the name of your child, especially when that was not the issue before her. The judge is wrong and you're an idiot for agreeing with her.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:30 am |
        • Mel

          Is it ok for me to agree with someone who you disagreed with? I hope I'm not in communist country.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:05 am |
        • truthprevails1

          The fact is that what you're agreeing with violates the rights of another person...does it make you feel righteous to do this instead of shutting the fuck up and realizing the truth of this matter??? You're not winning this argument and no mater which way your crazed little mind may try to spin it, there is no justification for your reasoning or the judge's.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:08 am |
        • Mel

          Be a Mr. Right, Winner, or hero is not why I was posting these messages.

          The question is do you care about this kid? I do t know him but I'm interested in discussing about his safety and his future.

          You know America's culture. This mother can do something about it. You are talking to a wrong person. Pea brain!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:28 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Pea brain? C'mon is that the best you can do!! You're the one projecting the child's future and not giving a damn about his parents rights. Are you going to insist that all other children named Messiah (see it's not that hard to type) also change their name? I think you're the pea brain or at least that is about the size of the functioning portion of your brain!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:35 am |
        • Saraswati

          Mel, I don't know where you live, but I've lived all over the US, including in the south, and I can guarantee you this name will not endanger the kids safety. It will make him less employable, but so will thousands of other names ignorant parents give their kids.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:33 am |
      • Here Come da Judge


        I hereby outlaw your name because it rhymes with hell.

        Out of the goodness of my heart, I will allow you to keep the same letters, and henceforth you shall be called Elm.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:37 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          hahaha Elm. Yeah that's good. As in dumb as a post.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:48 am |
        • truthprevails1

          I think Dead Elm would be so much more appropriate. This girl obviously has a few dead brain cells (probably more dead than functioning).

          August 14, 2013 at 4:49 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Or Lem as in lemming.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:52 am |
        • Here Come da Judge

          It is for her own good, you know. I have deemed that it is eternally dangerous for Mel to have a name the rhymes with hell, for surely that's where she will go. Common sense!

          August 14, 2013 at 4:55 am |
        • Mel

          Hell frozen over!!! You believe in hell!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:20 am |
        • Mel


          August 14, 2013 at 5:10 am |
        • truthprevails1

          She didn't get it!! As clueless as I thought she was!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:13 am |
        • Mel

          Breathe:..... *inhale* ...........*exhale* ..... *inhale* ...........*exhale*..... ..... *inhale* ...........*exhale*..... yes, you are doing good. Keep going.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:31 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Is breathing as challenging for you as thinking logically is?

          August 14, 2013 at 5:45 am |
        • Mel

          I like you.

          I'd smile if I can meet you in person.

          Breathing and mediating are good for your mind, body, and soul. You need it.

          I'm going to bed with a smiling face cuz I know that you do care about this child. No one should decide for someone's future. Cool. I like you.

          Good night my friend.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:49 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Mel: Put yourself in the position of these parents. We don't know what his future holds and that will be totally dependent on many factors, the least of which will be his name. The name is not something I would have chosen but it's not for any of us to decide.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:53 am |
      • Mel

        You can tell this mother to keep that name. If you do, I think it is not that hard.

        August 14, 2013 at 5:01 am |
        • truthprevails1

          You can stop the blatant ignorance and realize you're as wrong as the judge. How the hell would you feel if you were ordered illegally and in violation of your rights to change your child's name? Thankfully ignorance like yours is not what matters. You can project your opinion but in the grand scheme of it, it doesn't matter...the judge and you are still wrong.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:05 am |
        • Mel

          I believe in Free of speech. If I really want that name which Judge said it is illegal, I will FIGHT for it.

          Now, if this mother really want that name so badly, she'd do something about it. Or you invest your time in her.

          Being ignorant is good for this country. 😉

          August 14, 2013 at 5:24 am |
        • truthprevails1

          We can educate your ignorance, sadly your stupidity is another story!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:36 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Mel you're missing the point. A bully doesn't need a weird name to pick on someone. Appearance, behavior or entirely made up excuses will foster abuse. This kid's name is no more likely to lead to his death or abuse than any other reason.
      Here's the thing. If what you said was true then there would be a long list of headlines for all the other people named Messiah killed in America. I doubt you can find even one.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:25 am |
      • Mel

        Those people who have that name are smart enough not to say, " I'm M.....iah!!!" Sadly, he has to be more careful everyday in rest of his life.
        If he flies to other country and say his name, he could be gone.
        Don't you think it is wise to say that name and you know he may face dangerous someday?

        August 14, 2013 at 4:32 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Don't you think it is wise to shut up and realize that this is not your place to say? What is your place is to respect the line the judge crossed! Use you damn head and learn a little about who bullies go after. It further doesn't matter if you think he could face danger in the future....the future is yet to be seen and people with the name 'Mel' are as likely to get killed as this little guy might be.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:36 am |
        • Mel

          I do care about this innocent cute little boy's future. You can say anything about me because I'm doing good and happy but can you think twice about his future?

          August 14, 2013 at 5:09 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          "Those people who have that name are smart enough not to say, " I'm M.....iah!!!""

          Bullshit. You have no idea how these people go about their daily lives. Stop projecting your narrow ignorant view.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:38 am |
        • Mel

          You are right.

          But please don't forget what I think they do.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:12 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Yes we are right. You can't project this child's future, so why go so far as to try and I highly doubt you care about this child or you'd be looking at how his parents rights were violated instead of stating your ignorant opinion on what you think his future may hold.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:16 am |
        • Susan StoHelit

          You don't even know that people of other religions would find this offensive – that's the English name for a term in the Christian Bible – not necessarily the same for other religions. You're making an assumption that they'll be bigoted and violent based on your own prejudices and I suspect dislike of the unknown and unfamiliar.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Exactly. Mel obviously knows little about how bullies work or she wouldn't be stating such an opinion. Kids with normal names get bullied all the time. The bully may use it as an excuse but if it wasn't this kid he/she was picking on, it would be another child.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:33 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      I would love to this this child or someone with the same name rise up to become POTUS just to see the mental meltdown of religinuts everywhere.

      August 14, 2013 at 5:40 am |
      • AtheistSteve

        edit: 'see this child'

        August 14, 2013 at 5:41 am |
      • truthprevails1

        That would be the end of a good portion of the country. They'd all be found on their knees with their magical koolaid cups in front of them, dead as the tree stump in our yard and dead as Mel's brain.

        August 14, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • Thinker...

      I would judge from the various comments and responces that:
      A) Mel is not from the USA.
      B) Mel is from somewhere where people are killed if they have a 'bad' name.
      C) Mel does not know that the USA is not like those places.

      While your concern for Messiah's safety is admirable, it is missplaced in this country.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Nope. People aren't that ignorant. Not that many of them. And the name is in use by many other kids.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • chris

      Yes Mel. Clearly it is a for-gone conclusion that if a baby is named Messiah then it will be killed.... Where do you live that you believe that? Islamabad? Mel, I feel so sorry that you feel that way. Such a narrow minded place you must be in.

      August 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  8. I Have a Small Penis

    Are you going to eat the last piece?

    August 14, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I would like it if it's still available.

      August 14, 2013 at 2:55 am |
  9. I Have a Small Penis

    Do you know your T levels guys? 877-913-0079 Check did your Testosterone apparently.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:33 am |
  10. Greg

    Well, if the judge can rule "messiah" as not an eligible name, then there needs to be rules on others like "North," "Blanket," Apple," "Kal-el," although I have to like that one because I'm a comic-book loving geek, and the 400,000,000,000 Zulu Swahili mashed-together names that so many African-Americans love naming their kids (btw, most of those truly tribal names are either earned by symbols, portents, actions, etc, not because they sound cool. And yes, us white folk do the crazy names too – I've already mentioned Apple and Kal-El. Oh, and Moon unit. Personally, I think once a kid is old enough to know what his/her name really is, and if it causes issues with other kids, he/she should be able to reverse the stupidity that temporarily caused his/her parent to name their child after a direction, superhero, direction, astronomical body, or some tribal name listed in Wikipedia.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • I Have a Small Penis

      Just spell it in a different language. And of story.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:29 am |
      • Athy

        How do you spell something in a different language?

        August 14, 2013 at 1:52 am |
        • I Have a Small Penis

          Athy, I was gonna make a joke but I forgot what it was..

          August 14, 2013 at 3:15 am |
        • I Have a Small Penis

          Oh yeah:

          Athy, I don't spell with my penis.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:18 am |
        • Athy

          You must not live where it snows, then.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  11. I Have a Small Penis

    This is a masterful dilemma and I think in the end we mush agree that sounds are just sounds. Who cares what they name the kid. Apple Sauce for all I care.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:26 am |
  12. MOCaseA

    I thought there was a law protecting the rights of Parents to name their children what-ever they wanted as long as it wouldn't place an unusual strain on the child's development. The woman, who obviously let her own religious persuasions motivate her choice, should have stuck to the letter of American law, instead of her religious preference. In American law, there is no "Messiah."

    August 14, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • Apple Bush

      MO C ta da A yo, bitch be frontin' no way just to get some B's yo.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:23 am |
      • lance

        That's very cogent Apple.

        August 14, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  13. Marcus

    Just another example of christians using their position to bully everyone... in this case, even other christians...

    Sack the judge, and lets have a beer.

    To J George, you are right... one messiah... and that messiah is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I trust that you will endorse the one *true* God. No more pasta related names.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Marcus you are naïve and redundant and you over stated things. There is also the great deity: "The Burrowing Burrito Bug"

      August 14, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  14. Apple Bush

    Embrace the true nature of God.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  15. Apple Bush

    The Jews will love this kid!

    August 14, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • lance

      No they won't.

      August 14, 2013 at 2:01 am |
  16. Apple Bush

    Watch this. First tick tick tick. Now it is on. Three times and it is on. Do you feel it now vibrating on high? This is an easy trick you can try at home.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  17. Bootyfunk

    saw DJ Messiah a few years ago, did some X and made out with an ex-girlfriend. was a pretty good night, overall.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  18. Brendhan

    I know a lot of Mexicans named Jesus that would disagree with the judges remarks on her ruling. Just sayin.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  19. NorCalMojo

    Who loves you and who do you love?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  20. Mark

    Oh lord. Definitely not the judges place to tell parents what to name their baby. The judges religious views don't matter in the court room and the judge should probably be investigated just for being so ridiculous as to think this was an appropriate thing for her to rule on.

    If we start criminalizing parents who ignorantly give their children silly vanity names then black kids would grow up with no mothers either.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Mel

      I think you have a ball to stand in front of people from Israel and Arabic countries that you disagreed with Judge's decision. Let me know how things go for you.

      August 14, 2013 at 2:12 am |
      • sam stone

        mel: why do you think that people from israel and "arabic countries" care what this woman names her child?

        August 14, 2013 at 4:12 am |
        • Mel

          One word: RESPECT.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:14 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Mel: Considering you have yet to learn the meaning of that word! Those people no more care about the kids name then they do about the fact that you are an uneducated dolt.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:58 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          Respect for what? Their religious ideology? Beliefs don't merit respect, only people do.

          August 14, 2013 at 5:04 am |
      • Saraswati

        Sure, Mel, what we want to do is model policies in oppressive countries. What's next, laws about what we can say about Mohammed because it might offend?

        August 14, 2013 at 7:29 am |
      • G to the T

        Guess it's a good thing we live in a country with freedom of religion AND freedom of speech then isn't it?

        August 14, 2013 at 11:22 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.